Q&A: Machine Guarding Safety Regulations

by Eric Esson, Frommelt Safety

Question: Why are industrial machine control/robotics safety regulations changing from EN 954-1 to EN ISO 13849-1 and EN 60621 standards?

Answer: Increasingly complex manufacturing processes are forcing more complexity into the systems required to monitor operations and keep machine operators safe. Automated processes, robotics and even time-tested processes all require considerable attention to ensure those processes can proceed both efficiently and safely. EN ISO 13849-1 will ultimately provide for a much safer manufacturing environment because it accounts for the holes that were starting to show in the older standards.

Question: How are these standards different from EN 954-1?

Answer: The new standard, 13849-1, is much more quantitative, applies common sense and forces companies to validate the safety system, whereas EN 954-1 was conceptual and only required companies to apply safety devices (controls) properly, specifying non-programmable, out-of-date technology with no validation requirements. Overall, EN ISO 13849-1 is an improved, more comprehensive safety specification. By adhering to its tenets, the manufacturing environment will be safer and properly guarded machines will be better documented for the long run.

Question: How do the new standards improve safety?

Answer: ISO 13849-1, when broken down to the basics, provides a “clearly” defined set of rules to follow when designing the safety system as applied to industrial machine control systems. It was made necessary by advances in technology for safety control systems and methodology. Once again, as manufacturing systems become more complex, safety systems need to be more advanced to keep the operators, technicians and other workers safe.

Question: What do these changes mean for plastics manufacturers?

Answer: All types of manufacturing processes will be affected by these changes. With the addition of robots and CNC-operated machinery becoming more prevalent in all types of manufacturing environments, both the companies supplying the machinery and the end users will be required to take an active role in ensuring a safe and consistent manufacturing environment.

Question: What other new machine guarding regulations are on the horizon?

Answer: RIA 15.06 is a pending robot safety standard that likely will be revised and ratified. The new standard, which will reference EN ISO 10218-1 (addressing robot systems and integration), will require better hazard identification and mandate risk assessments requiring validation of the safety solutions. It also will mandate designs that incorporate protective measures for the robot cell and the operator, while providing for proper training. We don’t know exactly when this will be ratified and take effect, but it won’t be too far in the future.

Eric Esson, national sales and marketing manager at Frommelt Safety, is an expert in OSHA regulations and industrial safety equipment, specifically in welding and robotics. He has been affiliated with Rite-Hite since 2000. For more information, call 866.852.1500 or visit www.frommeltsafety.com.